Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
Brrr!! It does sound like fun, though. Reminds me of the four winters I spent on a 36′ sailboat in Boston Harbor years ago. In November the dish detergent would solidify. We knew it was spring when it liquefied again until April! Every morning the edges of our sheets would be frozen to the hull because the condensation had iced up and we’d have to peel them away from the hull! Crazy but fun memories!!
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
Last year I purchased the 2013 Newmar Bay Star, a 30 ft. It’s designed specifically for fulltiming, with huge basements that extend the entire coach and the desk/buffet option. I’m coming up from a 24 ft Dynamax that allowed me to stay anywhere. The Newmar is very tall so I’m worried that overhead space will be an issue in park camping. I’m a tree gal so height should also be considered if you love forests.
Enter PEX. My friend Mike, who’d done most of the interior work on his home in Wenatchee Heights, had raved about it. I did some research. PEX was more costly than PVC but less costly than copper. It didn’t require any welding — or whatever it is that people do to copper pipes to join them — and it was flexible. There were two kinds of fittings. One kind required special (costly) crimping tools. The other kind, known as PTC, let you literally snap pieces together, with no special tools at all. All I needed was a PVC pipe cutter (which I already had) and a very inexpensive tool I could use to separate joined pieces if I made a mistake. The snap fittings were a bit more costly than the crimp type, but I only needed a few. I bought a 100-foot roll of blue 3/4 inch PEX.
My wife and I enjoyed your website originally as a passing entertainment phenomenon. Then we decided it made a lot of sense for us. We are in our late 60’s, have a huge old house filled with antiques that the kids either don’t want or cannot handle. So we are following your suggestion. We are selling it all ourselves; dividing the spoils, and buying an Excursion (a light color combination we think) then hitting the road.
Do whatever you can to practice living in an RV full-time before you actually hit the road. Practicing will help you learn what you need to enjoy this lifestyle and, more importantly, what you don’t. Practicing will help you get comfortable living in a small space and towing it to different campsites. The RV lifestyle will become more familiar, which will make the transition easier when it becomes part of your daily routine.
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
Since we live in a mobile home park and are connected to a city water supply, we have never used our fresh water tank, and we needed to protect our fresh water line from freezing. To do this we purchased a Pirit brand heated hose. Some people wrap their regular hose with heat cable and pipe insulation, but our water connection is so far from the city water pipe that we wouldn’t have saved much money doing it that way. We have been happy with our heated hose; it is very convenient and we left hooked up (but unplugged) over the summer as well.
Whether you’re camping down South where the sun always shines or places where it’s cold, the AC and the insulated underbelly plus furnace should keep your RV running at a comfortable temperature. If you’re thinking of doing a little tailgating along when on the move, there are exterior speakers, outdoor kitchen support with refrigerator and cooktop range, a wide awning and even an option for an outdoor grill. All in all, while the Jayco North point serves more purposes than one, it’s definitely a solid choice if you’re looking at fifth wheels for full-time living.
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
After checking out other blogs that said towing is cumbersome, we were thinking of foregoing a tow vehicle and renting a car when we need to get around. My concern is this might be problematic if we’re boondocking or camping somewhere remote. We considered trading our current SUV in for a mid-size four-down tow-able SUV (like a Honda CRV) then we’d only have to own one vehicle. But if this size is too cumbersome to tow we could get a compact car for towing and store our SUV on some property we own. (We need access to an SUV when we’re visiting back in the mountains of our home state of CO.)
After being in our RV camper for 1.5 years I can safely say that Command Hooks are the bomb(dot)com. We have some that range from 0.5lb rating up to 5lb rating. They’re super useful for things like hanging coffee cups in the kitchen, hanging towels in the bathroom, and hanging coats in the bedroom. Or you can start hanging Christmas lights around the living/kitchen/dining area for a little ambiance.
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses. Is anyone really interested in this stuff? I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself! Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers. So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
17. Ditch the electronics and have some old fashioned fun. Teach your kids how to play various card games and board games, or learn a new one for yourself. There are a great deal of hobbies, as well, that do not require electronic gadgets including cross stitch, crocheting, drawing, photography, jewelry making, wood carving and many more. There are also hobbies that can be taken advantage of at the campsites as well including bird watching and identifying plants, trees and insects.
This was going through each room to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. This is where the mind shift started to happen. Did the kids really need 5 sweatshirts what are we going to do with all of these books?! Did we really have to keep all of those Christmas lights when we only used half of them. Things like that. We started looking at our stuff differently and really evaluating what we wanted to have versus what we had just because we didn’t want to make a decision to get rid of it or not. Just keeping it had been easier.
Monthly Stays – Marinas tend to charge by the foot for monthly stays, ranging from $10 – 30 per foot (we’re 47′ long, so anywhere from $500-1400, plus electric and liveaboard surcharges). Like RV Parks, these are the cheapest marina rates and we’re looking forward to a slow pace of travel spending time in marinas in cool downtowns with lots to do in walking range.
We really appreciate the transparency you have provided in your blog posts, detailing expenses. We have found it useful for our own budget planning. Such a shame that some people find the need to project their own issues around how and where you spend your money and live your life. I totally understand why you are not sharing that detail anymore, but do appreciate what you are willing to share. I guess if people want more detail they can book an hour chat session with you! Anyway, it’s good to have this awareness as we might think twice about the level of detail we are willing to share in our posts too.
5. I would’ve understood that low mileage doesn’t necessarily mean an RV is in good shape – RVs need to be driven. The longer they sit the more things dry up and crack. If I had to do it over again, I’d ask if it was stored inside or outside, how much it was driven and how often routine maintenance was done. If the owner doesn’t know this and doesn’t have records, I’d either take it to a mechanic before purchasing or keep looking.
What about carseats? You have young children. Did you tow a vehicle for smaller driving around. My kids r same ages and we are seriously considering doing this. For all the same reasons. I have always considered homeschooling, so that’s not a giant leap. We just started to look I to RVs and 5th wheels. We already have a full sized pick-up our three kids fit in so we wouldn’t need another vehicle. But I’m worried a out the safety of driving a class A without child restraints and wasting valuable schooling time by having then in carseats while driving. How did you make this decision?
$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
Been trying to convince my husband for YEARS that we should do what you are doing. I just recently got him to start the process of selling our “big-popular-neighborhood-expensive-house-that-requires-two-incomes-but-we-really-can’t-afford-anyway” and buy a fixer-upper on more land with no HOA. We already have a buyer (our neighbor’s inlaws) and just need to settle on a price which is hard considering the foreclosures in the last few years. While we’ve been looking at what is available in our north GA area, we have literally turned up our noses at the listings that are “just a trailer” on land. What a snob I have become. Time to change the way I look at these things.
What has been cool about year 2 is that we have really started to see more transformational type of changes in us as people, as a family, as business owners. It has been quite the journey! Year 1 was about learning how to live this way. In year 2 we already knew how to live this way so it became more about choices, decisions, options, etc around working and living full time on the road.
Remember, look for areas most likely to lose heat, windows, doors, seals, and reinforce them with additional insulation. Consider investing in some portable electric heaters to keep warm without burning through all of your fuel, and make sure you wrap any and all water pipes in insulation and then electrical heat tape. If you don't have any other option than to ride out the winter, you can keep warm and safe, and Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Asheville, NC, and Spartanburg, SC, is ready to help you do it. Visit our dealership, or set an appointment with our service department, and let our staff help you prepare for the coldest months.
I was enlightened by the Tiny House movement. After researching into buying a tiny house and furnishing it, the cost was more than my regular sized 2 bedroom home. I then started looking at used RV’s, mainly 5th wheel Trailers and travel trailers. I found a decent used 5th Wheel with good bones, and bought it when my house sold. Prior to that, I spent 9 months selling off everything I owned and thought I needed. Everyone thought I was nuts. The kids where grown, the husband passed away, and it was just me and the cat. The banker suggested, I replace AC unit with a Heat and Air unit, battery, fridge…anything that was too old. My investment was $3900 for a 1996 Dutchman Aristocrat 27 ft. Back then they made them solid with good wood not chip board. Heat and Air Unit $850, Fridge (electric only) $150. I did quite a bit of water line insulation, because these units were not meant to live in cold weather.
Welcome to Little House Living! My name is Merissa and it’s nice to meet you! Here you can learn how to make the most with what you have. Whether that’s learning how to cook from scratch, checking out creative ways to save money, and learn how to live simply. I’m glad you’ve found your way here. Make sure to keep in touch by contacting me with questions and signing up for our newsletters.
Well…that was an error!! I’ve fixed it, thanks to you. That’s what happens when you stay up past midnight finishing posts after working a 15 hour day!! So we appreciate your comment. Love that you mentioned that its all about balancing expenses and income flow. We are working on building a program to teach our budgeting strategies, as well as share the tool we created that we use to budget each month. It’s not about how much money you make, its about how you manage it and control it. RV life allows a lot more flexibility in monthly expenses, we… Read more »
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
Amy, we do shoot videos and photos along the way for pay that we don’t show on our blog; that is Jason’s chosen profession. As for me (nikki) I knew I would not be a makeup artist on the road. It’s impossible to do exactly what I did from the road. I was always on location for production/advertising work that would require me to be in a central location. So now, I market myself as on camera talent, writer and edit photos.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
For the year 1 monthly budget I hope to cut it down to $1,900 per month average as Marvin is in Arizona for the solar power installation so I would not be going to Florida and therefore the campground and gas will decrease accordingly. Before that my campground and gas expenses were 32.7% of the budget. I had done the year one destinations before Nina wrote about the solar power upgrade, but obviously will have to make an adjustment.
never stayed at RV park & I never put fresh water in my old camper in winter. I bought several 1 gallon water bottles to use. I would NEVER put water in black tank in winter, only “flush” with RV antifreeze, poured out of the bottle, (the toilet kind, not the automotive engine kind fyi). pouring out of the bottle allows for fine control of amount of liquid you are pouring in your very limited black tank as well as antifreeze. I would always seek other places to use restrooms whenever possible, but would use mine in a pinch. preferably guys, can recycle the water bottles as well, to save room in black tank for what is really important, but you still need some antifreeze else will get frozen. I find putting 1 gallon antifreeze in when empty is a good start and then add about 12 oz each time #2.
One thing to note with the small space heaters is that they can take up a lot of power. You may end up tripping a couple of breakers as you figure out how the power flows through your RV. If you flip a breaker take a second to note what you have plugged in and where. By doing this you’ll gain a better understanding of what you can run at the same time, and more importantly what you can’t run at the same time.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
When we first got the RV the thought of a hard-mounted, fully-automatic Satellite TV dish on our roof seemed just the ticket. Push a button and off you go….fabulous! However camping as we do in lots of spots with trees and obstacles we have line-of-sight perhaps only ~50% of the time making our dish mostly useless. In retrospect a movable dish would totally be the way to go.
Like I mentioned above we are working on fixing the non-baby-friendly parts of the camper before we move in. To find these spots and areas I just let the baby crawl around in the camper right now to see where he goes and where he gets into! Mostly this means working on the front area of the camper where the seats are, I will be posting pics of our renovation once it’s complete! We are also making room for another bed, our rv does have pull out beds but we want something permanent and something that will work for a growing toddler (that would easily escape anything without sides!).
There are a host of insurance decisions to be made when living on the road, among them accidents, thefts and illnesses. Study the many discounts and options before you leave and you should only need to put yourself through the process once. Two coverages are essential: for the replacement value of your RV should it be damaged or stolen and for personal belongings, much like homeowners insurance. There are many insurers and levels of coverage – select wisely for the insurance to suit your intended lifestyle. Medical insurance is also offered specifically for full-timers.
I think it’s awesome you guys do this! I would love for me and my husband to do the RV for awhile just to try it out. I also wanted to let you know that I wrote a post on Low Cost Housing options and linked to your post here! Thanks for the great tips! Here’s the post if you want to check it out: http://www.tidyandteal.com/low-cost-housing-options/
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
Nina, I am hoping to set aside some money from the selling of our home and trying to stick close to my financial goals for how much the travel trailer, tow vehicle, and merchandise will cost. Only a real estate agent will tell me if I have that as a realistic number goal wise. I hope to contact a real estate agent next year to see how much the house could sell for after paying the Michigan real estate transfer fee and real estate commission plus how long it will take to sell the house. If I am realistic on that amount, then and only then will I travel down to Indiana to see how much the dream travel trailer will cost or otherwise the Northwood Arctic Fox will have to be it based on what I have seen so far. About the upgrades – most of the things that you would consider an upgrade will be on the travel trailer or merchandise wish list already. Plus you like Mr. Buddy while I will see how the goose down sleeping bags do as those only weighs 8 pounds for the two of them. Plus some of the merchandise that we have is getting old and needs replacing (want to purchase new after getting the travel trailer). There were other things included in the merchandise start up costs such as GPS, maps, kitchen, tools, furniture, sewer/water related products, bathroom, spare parts, cleaning stuff, etc. The solar power was low since I want to have more solar power and another battery or two than originally budgeted for.
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
We’ve camped in Mammoth and Park City over the winter months. I haven’t needed chains yet but am seriously considering getting them. Have you actually ever put the chains on your rig? I have a Class A DP, 39′ and tried to find low profile chains for both the front and rear. I am not retired so I don’t necessarily have the flexibility of waiting out the storm.
We are a Navy family of 6 (+3 cats) just starting out in a 34′ trailer. I am so excited to have found some families living a “full timer” lifestyle. We will mostly be tethered since my husband is still in the service, but we are thrilled that it will make traveling and changing duty stations MUCH easier! WalMart parking lots are fantastic for pit stops, it was a relief to know that I could just pop over to the grocery store if we had forgotten anything! Just wanted to say thank you in advance, since I am already brain-storming ways to organize our limited space, and figure out exactly how much we want to take with us! Best wishes on your journey…
6. Necessities and storage: ‘Take only what's necessary’ is easier said than done, but these tips should help. Have each family member lay out everything they want to take with them, and then have them pick out one thing they can do without until the pile is reduced as much as possible. Invest in some vacuum seal bags for clothing, and a hand-vac. Full-time RV living is a lot like camping, and necessitates much of the same equipment.
You can put reflective foil house wrap over RV. You don’t have to remove your exterior siding. You just have to put furring strips over the house wrap and put another layer of exterior siding. I have seen pictures of people making a RV cover out of reflective bubble foil for their motor homes but that would work if you are parked in one place for a while. Another thing that would help with the loss of heat would be to have spray foam insulation applied to the bottom of your RV since you are not skirting it. Also, you should look into 3M window shrink film. It’s a great low budge solution for single paned windows.
Wow..we have been following your post since we saw the special on TV. Was hoping to get some information on RV-ing, but did not know you would provide great detailed information. We hope to start traveling in about 5 years and the cost have been on our minds alot this year. Your expense details really help us. Hope to see you on the road sooner than 5 years. Thanks for the posts.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!